|Siege of Toulon|
|Part of the Federalist revolts and other naval operations during the War of the First Coalition|
The British evacuation of Toulon in December 1793
|French Republic|| French Royalists |
Kingdom of Spain
Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sardinia
|Commanders and leaders|
| Jean François Carteaux |
Jacques François Dugommier
Napoleon Bonaparte (WIA)
Jean François Cornu de La Poype
| Baron d'Imbert|
Charles O'Hara (POW)
Juan de Lángara
|32,000|| 1,500 |
7,000 & 32 Ships
6,500 & 5 Ships
2,600 & 37 Ships
|Casualties and losses|
| 1,200 killed or wounded|
700 killed or wounded
200 killed or wounded
1 Ship captured
14 Ships of the Line, 1 Frigate and 2 Corvettes abandoned and seized by the Republicans
The siege of Toulon (29 August – 19 December 1793) was a military engagement that took place during the Federalist revolts of the French Revolutionary Wars. It was undertaken by Republican forces against Royalist rebels supported by Anglo-Spanish forces in the southern French city of Toulon. It was during this siege that young Napoleon Bonaparte first won fame and promotion when his plan, involving the capture of fortifications above the harbour, was credited with forcing the city to capitulate and the Anglo-Spanish fleet to withdraw. The British siege of 1793 marked the first involvement of the Royal Navy with the French Revolution.
After the arrest of the Girondist deputies on the 2 June 1793, there followed a series of insurrections within the French cities of Lyon, Avignon, Nîmes, and Marseille known as Federalist revolts. In Toulon the revolutionaries evicted the existing Jacobin faction but were soon supplanted by the more numerous royalists. Upon the announcement of the recapture of Marseille and of the reprisals which had taken place there at the hands of the revolutionaries, the royalist forces, directed by the Baron d'Imbert, requested support from the Anglo-Spanish fleet. On the 28th of August, the British and Spanish commanders of the fleet, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood (Royal Navy) and Admiral Juan de Lángara (Spanish Navy), responded with 13,000 troops of British, Spanish, Neapolitan and Piedmontese origin. Baron d'Imbert delivered the port of Toulon to the British navy. Toulon hoisted the royal flag, the fleur de lys, and d'Imbert declared the eight-year-old Louis XVII king of France on the first of October. This result produced a potentially mortal situation for the French republic, as the city had a key naval arsenal and was the base for 26 ships of the line(about one-third of the total available to the French Navy). Without this port, the French could not hope to challenge the Allies, and specifically the British, for control of the seas. In addition, Toulon's loss would send a dangerous signal to others preparing to revolt against the republic. Although France had a large army due to its levée en masse , the Republic could not easily rebuild its navy, which had been the third largest in Europe, if the Allies and Royalists destroyed or captured much of it. Both the strategic importance of the naval base and the prestige of the Revolution demanded that the French recapture Toulon.
Below is the full order of battle of forces involved. Because no centralised command existed for the allies, they are simply designated as the 'Allied Army', however this was neither a field formation, nor a coherent force. The order of battle below is shown for the last part of the siege (from September).
|French Republicans Order of Battle|
By the end of the siege, Republican strength totalled from 8 x Regular Infantry Battalions, 50 x Volunteer Infantry Battalions, and 9 x National Guard Battalions, plus about 30 x Company-sized detachments. The Republicans eventually amassed some 1,600 x artillerymen and well over 100 x artillery pieces. The gunners were mixed themselves, with 42% Volunteers, 33% Regulars, and 25% Naval Gunners. Note: the 'Divisions' located below were administrative formations, and by no means operational formations. Each unit below has its English name following by its local-language name (in parenthesis), followed by [if available] the amount of troops.
|Allied Army Order of Battle|
|Allied Fleet Order of Battle|
I have no words to describe Bonaparte's merit: much technical skill, an equal degree of intelligence, and too much gallantry ...— General Jacques François Dugommier, at the siege of Toulon
The troops of the army said to be of the "Carmagnoles", under the command of General Jean François Carteaux, arrived at Toulon on 8 September, after those troops had recovered Avignon and Marseille, and then Ollioules. They joined up with the 6,000 men of the Alpine Maritime Army, commanded by General Jean François Cornu de La Poype, who had just taken La Valette-du-Var, and sought to take the forts of Mont Faron, which dominated the city to the East. They were reinforced by 3,000 sailors under the orders of Admiral de Saint Julien, who refused to serve the British with his chief, Jean-Honoré de Trogoff de Kerlessy. A further 5,000 soldiers under General La Poype were attached to the army to retake Toulon from the Army of Italy.
The Chief of Artillery, commander Elzéar Auguste Cousin de Dommartin, having been wounded at Ollioules, had the young captain Napoleon Bonaparte imposed upon him by the special representatives of the Convention and Napoleon's friends —Augustin Robespierre and Antoine Christophe Saliceti. Bonaparte had been in the area escorting a convoy of powder wagons en route to Nice and had stopped in to pay his respects to his fellow Corsican, Saliceti.Bonaparte had been present in the army since the Avignon insurrection (July, 1793), and was imposed on Dommartin in this way despite the mutual antipathy between the two men.
Despite the mutual dislike between Bonaparte and the chief of artillery, the young artillery officer was able to muster an artillery force that was worthy of a siege of Toulon and the fortresses that were quickly built by the British in its immediate environs. He was able to requisition equipment and cannon from the surrounding area. Guns were taken from Marseille, Avignon and the Army of Italy. The local populace, which was eager to prove its loyalty to the republic which it had recently rebelled against, was blackmailed into supplying the besieging force with animals and supplies. His activity resulted in the acquisition of 100 guns for the force. With the help of his friends, the deputies Saliceti and Augustin Robespierre, who held power of life and death, he was able to compel retired artillery officers from the area to re-enlist. The problem of manning the guns was not remedied by this solution alone, and under Bonaparte's intensive training he instructed much of the infantry in the practice of employing, deploying and firing the artillery that his efforts had recently acquired.However, in spite of this effort, Bonaparte was not as confident about this operation as was later his custom. The officers serving with him in the siege were incompetent, and he was becoming concerned about the needless delays due to these officers' mistakes. He was so concerned that he wrote a letter of appeal to the Committee of Public Safety requesting assistance. To deal with his superiors who were wanting in skill, he proposed the appointment of a general for command of the artillery, succeeding himself, so that "... (they could) command respect and deal with a crowd of fools on the staff with whom one has constantly to argue and lay down the law in order to overcome their prejudices and make them take steps which theory and practice alike have shown to be axiomatic to any trained officer of this corps".
After some reconnaissance, Bonaparte conceived a plan which envisaged the capture of the forts of l'Eguillette and Balaguier, on the hill of Cairo, which would then prevent passage between the small and large harbours of the port, so cutting maritime resupply, necessary for those under siege. Carteaux, reluctant, sent only a weak detachment under Major General Delaborde, which failed in its attempted conquest on 22 September. The allies now alerted, built "Fort Mulgrave", so christened in honour of the British commander, Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave, on the summit of the hill. It was supported by three smaller ones, called Saint-Phillipe, Saint-Côme, and Saint-Charles. The apparently impregnable collection was nicknamed, by the French, "Little Gibraltar".
Bonaparte was dissatisfied by the sole battery—called the "Mountain", positioned on the height of Saint-Laurent since 19 September. He established another, on the shore of Brégallion, called the " sans-culottes ". Hood attempted to silence it, without success, but the British fleet was obliged to harden its resolve along the coast anew, because of the high seabed of Mourillon and la Tour Royale. On the first of October, after the failure of General La Poype against the "Eastern Fort" of Faron, Bonaparte was asked to bombard the large fort of Malbousquet, whose fall would be required to enable the capture of the city. He therefore requisitioned artillery from all of the surrounding countryside, holding the power of fifty batteries of six cannon apiece. Promoted to Chief of Battalion on 19 October, he organised a grand battery, said to be "of the Convention", on the hill of Arènes and facing the fort, supported by those of the "Camp of the Republicans" on the hill of Dumonceau, by those of the "Farinière" on the hill of Gaux, and those of the "Poudrière" at Lagoubran.
On 11 November, Carteaux was dismissed and replaced by François Amédée Doppet, formerly a doctor, whose indecision would cause an attempted surprise against Fort Mulgrave to fail on the 16th. Aware of his own incompetence, he resigned. He was succeeded by a career soldier, Dugommier, who immediately recognized the virtue of Bonaparte's plan, and prepared for the capture of Little Gibraltar. On the 20th, as soon as he arrived, the battery "Jacobin" was established, on the ridge of l'Evescat. Then, on the left, on 28 November, the battery of the "Men Without Fear", and then on 14 December, the "Chasse Coquins" were constructed between the two. Two other batteries were organized to repel the eventual intervention of the allied ships, they were called "The Great Harbour" and the "Four Windmills".
Pressured by the bombardment, the Anglo-Neapolitans executed a sortie, and took hold of the battery of the "Convention". A counter-attack, headed by Dugommier and Bonaparte, pushed them back and the British general, Charles O'Hara, was captured. He initiated surrender negotiations with Robespierre the Younger and Antoine Louis Albitte and the Federalist and Royalist battalions were disarmed.
Following O'Hara's capture, Dugommier, La Poype, and Bonaparte (now a colonel) launched a general assault during the night of 16 December. Around midnight, the assault began on Little Gibraltar and the fighting continued all night. Bonaparte was injured in the thigh by a British sergeant with a bayonet. However, in the morning, the position having been taken, Marmont was able to place artillery there, against l'Eguillette and Balaguier, which the British had evacuated without confrontation on the same day. During this time, La Poype finally was able to take the forts of Faron and Malbousquet. The allies then decided to evacuate by their maritime route. Commodore Sydney Smith was instructed by Hood to have the delivery fleet and the arsenal burnt.
Lángara ordered Don Pedro Cotiella to take three boats into the arsenal to destroy the French fleet. Sir Sidney Smith, who had recently arrived, volunteered to accompany him with his ship Swallow and three British boats. Cotiella was tasked with sinking Toulon's hulks; one was a disarmed former British frigate captured during the American Revolutionary War, Montréal , and the other was the French frigate Iris .These ships contained the gunpowder stores for the entire fleet and due to the danger of explosion were anchored in the outer roads, some distance from the city. He was then instructed to enter the Old Arsenal and destroy the ships there. The dock gates, which had been barred against attack and manned by 800 former galley slaves freed during the retreat. Their sympathies were with the advancing Republicans so to ensure that they did not interfere, Smith kept his guns trained on them throughout the operation. His boats were spotted by the Republican batteries on the heights and cannonballs and shells landed in the arsenal, although none struck Smith's men. As darkness fell Republican troops reached the shoreline and contributed musketry to the fusillade; Smith replied with grapeshot from his boat's guns.
At 20:00 Captain Charles Hare brought the fire ship HMS Vulcan into the New Arsenal. Smith halted the ship across the row of anchored French ships of the line, and lit the fuses at 22:00. Hare was badly wounded by an early detonation as he attempted to leave his ship. 's cannons fired a last salvo at the French positions on the shore. With the fires spreading through the dockyards and New Arsenal, Smith began to withdraw. His force was illuminated by the flames, making an inviting target for the Republican batteries. As his boats passed the Iris, however, the powder ship suddenly and unexpectedly exploded, blasting debris in a wide circle and sinking two of the British boats. On Britannia all of the crew survived, but the blast killed the master and three men on Union.Simultaneously, fire parties set alight the warehouses and stores ashore, including the mast house and the hemp and timber stores, creating an inferno across the harbour as Vulcan
With the New Arsenal in flames, Smith realised that the Old Arsenal appeared intact; only a few small fires marked the Spanish effort to destroy the French ships anchored within. He immediately led Swallow back towards the arsenal but found that Republican soldiers had captured it intact, their heavy musketry driving him back.Instead he turned to two disarmed ships of the line, Héros and Thémistocle , which lay in the inner roads as prison hulks. The French Republican prisoners on board had initially resisted British efforts to burn the ships, but with the evidence of the destruction in the arsenal before them they consented to be safely conveyed to shore as Smith's men set the empty hulls on fire.
With all the available targets on fire or in French hands, Smith withdrew once more, accompanied by dozens of small watercraft packed with Toulonnais refugees and Neapolitan soldiers separated during the retreat.As he passed the second powder hulk, Montréal, she also exploded unexpectedly. Although his force was well within the blast radius, on this occasion none of Smith's men were struck by falling debris and his boats retired to the waiting British fleet without further incident. As Smith's boats had gone about their work Hood had ordered HMS Robust under Captain George Elphinstone and HMS Leviathan under Captain Benjamin Hallowell to evacuate the allied troops from the waterfront. They were joined by HMS Courageux under Captain William Waldegrave, which had been undergoing repairs in the Arsenal to replace a damaged rudder. Despite this handicap, Courageux was able to participate in the evacuation and warp out of the harbour with the replacement rudder following behind, suspended between two ship's boats. The fireship HMS Conflagration, also undergoing repairs, was unable to sail and was destroyed during the evacuation. By the morning of 19 December Elphinstone's squadron had retrieved all of the Allied soldiers from the city without losing a single man.
In addition to the soldiery, the British squadron and their boats took on board thousands of French Royalist refugees, who had flocked to the waterfront when it became clear that the city would fall to the Republicans. Robust, the last to leave, carried more than 3,000 civilians from the harbour and another 4,000 were recorded on board Princess Royal out in the roads. In total the British fleet rescued 14,877 Toulonnais from the city; witnesses on board the retreating ships reported scenes of panic on the waterfront as stampeding civilians were crushed or drowned in their haste to escape the advancing Republican soldiers, who fired indiscriminately into the fleeing populace.
The troops of the Convention entered the city on the 19 December. The subsequent suppression of Royalists, directed by Paul Barras and Stanislas Fréron, was extremely bloody. It is estimated that between 700 and 800 prisoners were shot or slain by bayonet on Toulon's Champ de Mars. Bonaparte, treated for his injuries by Jean François Hernandez, was not present at the massacre. Promoted to brigadier general on 22 December, he was already on his way to his new post in Nice as the artillery commander for the Army of Italy. A gate, which comprises part of the old walls of the city of Toulon, evokes his departure; a commemorative plaque has been affixed there. This gate is called the Porte d'Italie.
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered territories in the Italian Peninsula, the Low Countries and the Rhineland in Europe and abandoned Louisiana in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.
The French Revolutionary Wars re-escalated as 1793 began. New powers entered the First Coalition days after the execution of King Louis XVI on 21 January. Spain and Portugal were among these. Then, on 1 February France declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands.
The War of the Pyrenees, also known as War of Roussillon or War of the Convention, was the Pyrenean front of the First Coalition's war against the French First Republic. It pitted Revolutionary France against the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal from March 1793 to July 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars.
Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith was a British naval and intelligence officer. Serving in the American and French revolutionary wars and Napoleonic Wars, he rose to the rank of Admiral.
Jacques François Coquille named Dugommier was a French general.
Jean Baptiste François Carteaux was a French painter who became a General in the French Revolutionary Army. He is notable chiefly for being the young Napoleon Bonaparte's commander at the siege of Toulon in 1793.
The French campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801) was Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in the Ottoman territories of Egypt and Syria, proclaimed to defend French trade interests, to establish scientific enterprise in the region and ultimately to join the forces of Indian ruler Tipu Sultan and drive away the British from the Indian subcontinent. It was the primary purpose of the Mediterranean campaign of 1798, a series of naval engagements that included the capture of Malta and the Greek island Crete, later arriving in the Port of Alexandria. The campaign ended in defeat for Napoleon, leading to the withdrawal of French troops from the region.
Count Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume was a French Navy officer and Vice-admiral.
The Army of the Eastern Pyrenees was one of the French Revolutionary armies. It fought against the Kingdom of Spain in Roussillon, the Cerdanya and Catalonia during the War of the Pyrenees. This army and the Army of the Western Pyrenees were formed by splitting the original Army of the Pyrenees at the end of April 1793 soon after the war started. Shortly after the Peace of Basel on 22 July 1795, the fighting ended and the army was dissolved on 12 October that same year. Many of its units and generals were transferred to join the Army of Italy and fought under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796.
Pierre François Sauret de la Borie led a combat division under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte during the Castiglione Campaign in 1796. He enlisted in the French army as a private in 1756. During the Seven Years' War he fought at Hastenbeck and Rossbach. He became a first lieutenant in 1789 and a lieutenant colonel in 1792. Assigned to the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees, served with distinction during the War of the Pyrenees against Spain. He was promoted to general officer in 1793 and became one of three infantry division commanders in the field army. He led his division at Palau, Boulou, Collioure, Black Mountain, Roses, and Bascara. He transferred to the Army of Italy in 1795. Bonaparte called him a very good soldier, but unlucky. He retired from active military service in order to enter politics.
The Battle of the Black Mountain was fought from 17 to 20 November 1794 between the army of the First French Republic and the allied armies of the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of Portugal. The French, led by Jacques François Dugommier defeated the Allies, who were commanded by Luis Firmín de Carvajal, Conde de la Unión. Though the Spanish right wing held, its left flank was driven back on the first day's fighting. On the last day of the battle, the French overran a key position and put the Spanish army to rout. The battle was remarkable in that both army commanders were slain. A Spanish artillery shell killed Dugommier early in the battle and Dominique Catherine de Pérignon assumed command of the French army. De la Union was shot dead while leading a cavalry charge on the last day of the fighting and was temporarily replaced by Jerónimo Girón-Moctezuma, Marquis de las Amarilas. The French victory led to the capture of Figueres and the Siege of Roses (Rosas), a port in Catalonia.
The siege of Calvi was a combined British and Corsican military operation during the Invasion of Corsica in the early stages of the French Revolutionary Wars. The Corsican people had risen up against the French garrison of the island in 1793, and sought support from the British Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet under Lord Hood. Hood's fleet was delayed by the Siege of Toulon, but in February 1794 supplied a small expeditionary force which successfully defeated the French garrison of San Fiorenzo and then a larger force which besieged the town of Bastia. The British force, now led by General Charles Stuart, then turned their attention to the fortress of Calvi, the only remaining French-held fortress in Corsica.
The siege of San Fiorenzo was a British military operation, supported by Corsican partisans early in the French Revolutionary Wars against the French-held town of San Fiorenzo on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. The Corsican people had risen up against the French Republican garrison in 1793 after an attempt to arrest the Corsican leader Pasquale Paoli during the Reign of Terror. The French had then been driven into three fortified towns on the northern coast; San Fiorenzo, Calvi, and Bastia and Paoli appealed to the British Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, commanded by Lord Hood, for assistance against the French garrison.
Jean-Honoré de Trogoff de Kerlessy was a French count and contre-amiral, notable for handing over the French fleet at Toulon over to the British in 1793.
The Raid on Genoa was a minor naval engagement fought in the harbour of the Italian city of Genoa during the first year of the French Revolutionary Wars. French Republican forces in the Mediterranean, under pressure from Austrian and Spanish armies, Royalist uprisings and British blockade had suffered the loss of their principal naval base and the fleet stationed there when British forces under Lord Hood seized Toulon at the invitation of the city's Royalist faction. The survivors of the French fleet were scattered across the Mediterranean, several sheltering in neutral Italian harbours, including the frigates Modeste at Genoa and Impérieuse at Leghorn.
The fate of the French fleet at the Siege of Toulon marked one of the earliest significant operations by the British Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary Wars. In August 1793, five months after the National Convention declared war on Great Britain, thus drawing Britain into the ongoing War of the First Coalition, the government of the French Mediterranean city of Toulon rose up against the Republican national government in favour of the Royalist faction. Toulon was the principal French naval port on the Mediterranean and almost the entirety of the French Mediterranean Fleet was anchored in the harbour. After negotiations the British commander in the Mediterranean, Admiral Lord Hood, the city's Royalists seized control and British forces, alongside allies from Spain, Naples and Sardinia entered the city, seizing the fleet and preparing defences against the inevitable Republican counterattack.
The siege of Collioure saw a Republican French army led by Jacques François Dugommier invest a French port held by a Spanish garrison commanded by Eugenio Navarro. The actual siege work was carried out by Pierre François Sauret's reinforced division. After the three-and-a-half-week War of the Pyrenees siege the Spanish fleet sent to evacuate the garrison was blown off station by a storm. Navarro surrendered the town on the promise to exchange the paroled garrison with an equal number of French prisoners. After the defenders were released, the Spanish army commander Luis Firmín de Carvajal, Conde de la Unión refused to authorize the agreement or return any French captives. The infuriated French government afterward passed a decree ordering death to all Spanish prisoners and some units carried out the brutal order.
The Mediterranean campaign of 1793–1796 was a major theater of conflict in the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars. Fought during the War of the First Coalition, the campaign was primarily contested in the Western Mediterranean between the French Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, based at Toulon in Southern France, and the British Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet, supported by the Spanish Navy and the smaller navies of several Italian states. Major fighting was concentrated in the Ligurian Sea, and focused on British maintenance of and French resistance to a British close blockade of the French Mediterranean coast. Additional conflict spread along Mediterranean trade routes, contested by individual warships and small squadrons.
The French expedition to Sardinia was a short military campaign fought in 1793 in the Mediterranean Sea in the first year of the War of the First Coalition, during the French Revolutionary Wars. The operation was the first offensive by the new French Republic in the Mediterranean during the conflict, and was directed at the island of Sardinia, part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Sardinia was neutral at the time, but immediately joined the anti-French coalition. The operation was a failure, with attacks directed at Cagliari in the south and La Maddalena in the north both ending in defeat.
French frigate Proselyte was a one-off built to a design by Charles-Louis Ducrest, and launched in 1786 at Le Havre. French Royalists handed her over to the British Royal Navy when it occupied Toulon in 1793. The Royal Navy commissioned her as a floating battery. She was lost in action at the siege of Bastia in April 1794.
Battle of Peyrestortes
|French Revolution: Revolutionary campaigns|
Siege of Toulon (1793)
First Battle of Wissembourg (1793)